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German Iraq hostages urge Berlin to help free them | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BERLIN,(Reuters) – Two Germans held in Iraq appeared in a video on Friday urging their government to help secure their release and Germany’s foreign minister vowed to do everything within his power to free the men.

The recording aired by Arabic news broadcaster Al Jazeera, showed the two engineers with masked gunmen standing behind them.

Their voices were inaudible, but Al Jazeera said the video, which had a time stamp of Jan. 24, the day of their abduction, showed the two men urging Berlin to help secure their release.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that the Al Jazeera footage was “devastating”.

“The German government will do everything it can to free the two men,” he said. “We will act level-headedly. That I can promise on behalf of the government. We renew our appeal for the men to be released immediately.”

Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, was analysing the footage, though a spokesman declined to comment on any conclusions BND analysts might have reached.

Al Jazeera said the tape was received from a group that calls itself the Brigade of Ansar al-Tawheed Wa-Sunna, which did not make any demands through the recording.

The two men — identified in German media reports as Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke — were kidnapped on Tuesday outside their workplace in the Iraqi industrial town of Baiji.

At least six gunmen, in two unmarked cars, grabbed the two men just outside a detergent plant in an industrial complex around Iraq’s biggest oil refinery.

The two men were only on their third day of work, setting up a new plant.

Germany has set up a crisis unit to seek their release.

Baiji lies 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad. U.S. patrols suffer almost daily roadside bomb attacks in the area, which also attracts criminal gangs because of the oil refinery.

After a relative lull, there has been an upsurge in the number of kidnappings of foreigners in the past three months.

More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been abducted in the anarchy that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Most foreign hostages have been released, but 54 are known to have been killed; dozens are still believed to be held.